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“The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens 115

“The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens

“The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens show Rubens’ version of idealised feminine beauty, with the goddesses Venus, Minerva and Juno on right side and Paris accompanied by Mercury on the left side. The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War and in a later Roman version of the story to the foundation of Rome. The story of the Judgement of Paris offered artists the opportunity to depict a beauty contest between three beautiful female nudes.

The Greek myth starts when Zeus held a banquet in celebration of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis the parents of Achilles. Unfortunately, Eris, the goddess of discord was not invited, as she would have made the party unpleasant for everyone. Eris arrived uninvited and angry at the celebration with a golden apple which she threw into the proceedings as a prize of beauty. Three goddesses claimed the apple Hera (Juno), Athena (Minerva) and Aphrodite (Venus). They asked Zeus to judge which of them was fairest, reluctant to decide himself; he declared that Paris, a Trojan mortal, would judge their cases.

With Hermes (Mercury) as their guide, the three beautiful goddesses confronted Paris. After failing to judge their beauty with their clothing on, the three goddesses stripped nude to convince Paris of their worthiness. While Paris inspected them, each attempted to bribe him. Hera offered to make him king of Europe and Asia. Athena offered wisdom and skill in war. Aphrodite, offered the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen of Sparta, wife of the Greek king Menelaus. Paris accepted Aphrodite’s (Venus) gift and awarded the apple to her. The Greeks’ expedition to retrieve Helen from Paris in Troy is the mythological basis of the Trojan War. Athena’s rage at losing makes her join the Greeks in the battle against Paris’ Trojans.

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is considered the most influential artists of Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens specialised in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His compositions referenced classical and Christian history and emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality.

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The Judgment of Paris

  • Title:                        The Judgment of Paris
  • Artist:                      Peter Paul Rubens
  • Year:                        1639
  • Medium:                 Oil on panel
  • Dimensions:          199 × 381 cm (78.3 × 150 in)
  • Museum:                Prado Museum, Museo del Prado

Peter Paul Rubens

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“Your arms were quicksand. Your kiss was death.”
– Samson

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Photo Credit: 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons